May we all make our journeys and changes so as to render them so many steps towards the right road for the Eternal Kingdom.

Mary Aikenhead

early years


This pilgrimage is intended to provide the pilgrim with an opportunity to develop a closer understanding of the earliest years and foundation of the Sisters of Charity in Australia. It aims to assist the pilgrim to:

  • connect with the five women who made the first journey, took the first steps (on this soil) and commenced their works of charity, which would grow into our ministries today, and;
  • encourage the pilgrim to consider how their heart and mind is responding to the call to continue these great works in new and contemporary contexts

The pilgrimage draws its spirituality from the faith and vision of Mary Aikenhead herself, and considers how the lived experience of this group of five women of varying ages, background and personality transplanted and nurtured this original spirituality for a new foundation, listening for where they might be called and seeking where they would be ‘extensively useful’.

It recognises that which Mary Aikenhead always knew, that the very humanity of each Sister could be her greatest strength or her keenest challenge, but that ultimately they had but the divine providence of the Lord to guide and support their work.

And it calls on each pilgrim who traces these footsteps to recognise their unique humanity, to understand their individual journey of faith, and to discern their place in this continuing story, to honour those who have walked before them, and to walk the path that they will create for those who will follow them.

Leadership Formation Framework

Formation of the Heart

The Australian Pilgrimage embodies the principles and practices which are found in the Leadership Formation Framework: Formation of the Heart, published by the Trustees of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, in 2011. It provides guidance and support for those who undertake the planning, development and implementation of formation activities within Mary Aikenhead Ministries.

In particular this pilgrimage recognises that:

  • Formation programs develop participant understanding and their place within the broader ministry of the Church;
  • Quality formation shapes and transforms the individual, the ministerial culture and society;
  • Reflective and integrative processes are essential for quality ministries

Leadership Formation Framework 2011, page 11

Why is Pilgrimage Important?

Spiritual Journey


Pilgrimage’ is a wide-ranging topic touching on many aspects of human existence, signifying not only a physical journey to a special place, also an inner spiritual journey and indeed life itself.



Differing interpretations of, and attitudes to, pilgrimage can cause considerable controversy and even conflict.



Pilgrimage to holy places has deeply influenced the spiritual and physical landscapes of England and many other countries. Ancient pilgrimage destinations remain key heritage sites today.



Pilgrimage is important in history, literature, art, architecture & social anthropology, as well as religion and spirituality.



Pilgrimage has fired the imaginations of writers and artists for centuries.



Pilgrimage is still very much alive, 21st century; pilgrims - from all faiths and none – continue to explore the significance of place and of journey.


Irish Pilgrimage

Mary Aikenhead Ministries undertakes an annual Pilgrimage to Ireland, where Pilgrims are captured and strengthened by the stories and reflections of the everyday actions of the brave group of women, who are the motivation and heritage of Mary Aikenhead Ministries. A pilgrimage is much more than a trip or an excursion, it is designed to speak to the heart of each Pilgrim, engaging with the sacredness of people and places and see these experiences through the light of one’s own life story. Ireland is such an extraordinary place, where many world-changing ministries were “born”. The story of Mary Aikenhead as a young woman prayerfully and courageously working out this calling upon her life, provides inspiration and courage for all Mary Aikenhead Ministries; hospitals, schools and places in which one works and serves their days and inspiration arises, reflecting on its humble beginnings.

The journey begins in Dublin where the beginning of the Prison Ministry at Kilmainham Gaol is experienced, moving onto the Archives and experiencing the gracious hospitality of the Sisters of Charity which is a characteristic of our journey. The engagement with the story comes alive in the Heritage Centre and the moving celebration of the first five sisters departing Dun Loaghaire Pier, on their voyage to Australia. 'Focus Ireland' and Sister Stan’s presentation highlights the systematic response to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in Ireland today. Cork tells the story of Mary Aikenhead’s early life where the education of young women is still prominent and the hospitality of the Cork Community is extraordinary. Next comes the amazing story of Mother Arsenius and the foundation of the Foxford Woollen Mills. The pilgrims then return to Dublin for the profound liturgy at Donnybrook, at Mary’s Grave and then onto the Glendalough for a walking Eucharist, through the monastic city. This provides time and space for reflection and the drawing together of all God has desired for us in the final ritual.

Virtual Pilgrimages

The Australian Pilgrimage
experience aims to:
  • build awareness of the foundation story through a focus on ‘people in place’
  • develop an understanding of the humanity and personality of the five founding Sisters
  • reflect on the call to ministry and the response of these early Sisters
  • facilitate personal reflection and discernment around our own call to ministry and the connection to our ‘place’
  • encourage personal action in contemporary ministry
  • 'Pilgrimage' is a term which can be used to portray an inner spiritual journey through prayer, meditation or mystical experience. In some faiths and cultures, withdrawal from the everyday world into a monastery or hermit's cell, choosing to enter into a physically-­restricted life of isolation and silence, is seen as a way of setting the soul free to travel inwardly.
Scroll to Top